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Education • India • 2023
“I collect junk and sell plastic bottles so we can survive and this is what lead me to spending a lot of time on the street. I would just roam here and there.” Aamir

When Aamir’s father became ill, it was impossible for him to work to support the family. Although his mother earned some money through her work as a rag picker, it was a meagre amount and not enough to support the family. This was when Aamir and his older brother, stepped up and began working with their mother.

Now 12, Aamir’s future started looking up when he met a street educator from CHETNA, Toybox’s partner in India in September 2022. He shares how his life has changed from what it was in his own words here.

"Hunger and poverty are the biggest challenges for children who are living and working on the streets in my country. I used to get scolded and shouted at during my work, but I was doing what I had to for survival. Sometimes I felt unsafe when children who took drugs suggested to me to do the same, but I didn’t want to stay in touch with them.

Before when I just used to roam here and there collecting garbage, my family wasn’t aware of the importance of school. There was no information about how admission worked to get into the school. Thankfully, CHETNA’s educator went to the school and talked to the Principal about enrolling me. At first, the Principal said there were too many children and not enough teachers but CHETNA persevered and he eventually got my admission finalised."

"I always wanted to go to school but couldn’t because of a lack of information and guidance so I’m very happy now I’m admitted! The street educator saying that they would help me get school admission was one of the things that made me want to start going to the project, among other things too. For example, now I’ve got a personal hygiene kit for my own use, study materials like a slate and pencils… and we also get snacks and can play games like carrom and ludo.

At the education club, I’ve learned to write and I’m also learning to read a little too. I’ve learned the benefits of living cleanly and know about my rights as a child. I always love to play games and do drawing at the project too, as well as learning and the qualities of a good leader and how to express myself.

I still wake up early and go to pick rubbish from the drains, which I sell to give my mother money. But now, after that, I go to the Education Centre and school before going home in the evenings. I get a midday meal and milk every day at school."

"My favourite lesson is Hindi where we read stories because I learn good things and manners from the stories. In school, we get education and can develop our personality which is why it’s so important. My advice to any child would be that they go to school if they can. Now I go, I feel happiness and pride.

When I grow up, I want to become a police officer and send children to school. If I was the Prime Minister, I’d do something to make sure children got easily into school and could have enough food and time to play rather than working. Three things are the most important to me right now – education, taking care of my dad and getting my own house.”

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